17 June, 2013

Young operators in All Asian contest


The All Asian DX Contest is one of the more fun ones to participate in. One thing is the DX aspect of it, but I like it also because of the exchange of the age of the operators. In other contests one exchanges boring stuff like serial number 1, 2, 3, ... ; the CQ or IARU zone (14 and 18 for me); or the power output. But exchanging the age of the operators gives a little glimpse of the person behind the radio on the other side.

It also makes it possible to make a graph of the distribution of age. I had 62 contacts this weekend, of which 55 were unique. They were mainly in Asiatic Russia and Japan. The average age of the operators was 51.6 years - 7 years younger than me - and the graph shows the distribution. The bar for e.g. 54 is the percentage, 20 in this case, of operators in the bracket 50-54 years and so on.

The graph actually makes me quite optimistic concerning the future of ham radio. There are many young contest operators out there, at least in Asia. This resonates well with what others are saying also. Never before has there been so large activity on the bands as during contests these days.

10 June, 2013

Cosmetic K2 Upgrade

My Elecraft K2 which is now more than 11 years old (serial #2198) has served me well, even earning me QRP DXCC (100 countries with 5 Watts) some years ago. It is still cosmetically in mint condition, except for that single item which sticks out like a sore thumb: The tuning knob.

This became very clear to me a couple of months ago when LA8OKA's and my K2 were displayed side by side at our stand at Oslo Maker Faire. His is less than two years old, serial #7224, and they were similar except for the scratches in the faceplate of my tuning knob. If I am allowed to generalize from my knob only, it seems as if the faceplate had poor quality paint and has been replaced by a better quality version over the years.

Anyway I ordered a new one and paid the price which at present is $30.37 plus shipping. The difference is really striking and I feel like I have a new K2 now, well worth the price! The K2 now serves as my second rig, and I think it has many years of good service still to come.

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02 June, 2013

The advantage of the single-lever paddle

My single-lever PCB keyer KI6SN/NB6M-style
It may seem like a bad idea to downgrade from a dual-lever paddle and iambic keyer to a single-lever paddle. It must be inefficient since each individual dash and dot has to be generated by a right or left movement of the paddle. Despite this, many of the champions in the High Speed Telegraphy competitions use single-lever paddles, often home-made ones. How can that be?

K7QO, Chuck Adams, wrote "Using an Iambic Paddle" and compared the dual-lever paddle with the single-lever with respect to number of movements. If all 26 letters of the English alphabet and the numbers from 0 to 9 are sent, the single-lever paddle requires 73 strokes while a dual-lever and an iambic keyer requires 65. This is 11% less.

But when N1FN, Marshall G. Emm, wrote "Iambic Keying - Debunking the Myth" he analyzed the 7 letters that are faster to send with an iambic keyer - C, F, K, L, Y, Q, and R - and found that only one of them, the L, is among the 12 most frequent ones in English. He illustrated it this way:

Guess what't wrong with this figure? He didn't see the R and forgot that it is also among the most frequent letters!